04 November 2015

Web Finds.... how did we get started?

Looking back through the history of my time on Philofaxy, we sort of get a bit laid back about seeing a Web Finds post every Saturday morning, it is now the norm... but how did they start?

When I joined the team I started collecting stats on the number of our visitors. Occasionally I would share the odd link to other sites, although there were not many around back in 2009 to share, well compared to now.

What sparked the idea of doing Web Finds posts?

The idea for Web Finds as a more regular post came to me one day in July 2010 when I was checking the visitor stats and the new visitors had gone off the chart almost.

Naturally I wanted to know where all these visitors had suddenly come from because not only had they boosted our figures for that day and for a few days afterwards but our figures started to grow afterwards as well.

So I traced the source back to this post: A FILOFAX LOVE AFFAIR! by Gala Darling

I looked through the post and then I spotted it at the end of the post....

Naturally that brought a smile to my face, but that link was the reason for our number of visitors to blip.

This got me thinking, if that sort of thing can be caused to us... wouldn't it be great if we could do the same to other blog sites too. The idea being if Philofaxy was considered to be a 'One Stop Shop' for everything Filofax and ring bound planners then we would have a crowd of people we could 'send out' to visit other blogs, and like had happened to us they might also stop by to look at other posts too.

The idea being that not everyone blogs 100% of the time about organisers, but there might be other topics that appeal to you in the blogs we have links to. This helps them to grow an audience as well.

So the idea of doing this sort of post on a regular basis came about.

The first one I can track down was this one: Filofax blog posts from July 2010, then a few days later I did another Filofax Blog Posts which you will see is a more familiar format. They would appear in a sort of random nature. By this time I had retired and we had moved to France so I had more time to go looking for posts. By September they had become Friday Web Finds and the format was starting to settle in to what you are used to seeing now. By 2011 things had started to settle in to a pattern.

So how are these posts created? Read on if you want a behind the scenes look.

It was about this time that I started to notice that Google wasn't very good at finding new blog posts, or ones that had only been out a few days. Older ones would eventually appear. So I started to rely less and less on Google to find posts to be included in Webfinds.

I now have a monitoring system I affectionately call it Gromit, the system looks at pages of RSS feeds (Rich Site Summary) these come from each of the blog/websites we are monitoring. It shows me the title of new posts as they pop up every few hours. I can transfer the posts of interest in to the blog posts using a simple action with in the web browser.

Here is one page of 'Gromit'

This is a snapshot of the system on Tuesday evening. I normally start the gathering process on a Tuesday or Wednesday. By the time we get to late Friday night you would see only the blog titles and no post titles.

The other two pages are just as busy as this one. The blogs are roughly in the order they were added to the system. There are 15 columns in total at the moment, but each one expands and contracts a little over time. If a blog becomes private or goes permanently off line it is removed from the system. But others will remain on the system even if the blog hasn't been active for 12 months or more, it might come live again and we will be there to capture any posts of interest.

You might have noticed in the tabs one labelled FiloYT, we do the same thing with Filofax You Tube videos too. Although I do have a special search set up for different You Tube categories which get used to complete the videos section of each post.

Also on the system is the equivalent for Travellers Notebook Times which also has a web finds post every Tuesday. By Friday night it isn't uncommon for me to have both web find posts open at the same time and I'm dropping posts in to either as I work through all the new posts, this is because some people blog about both kinds of planner.

Do you read every single post and video flagged up by the system? 

No there isn't enough hours in the day to do that! I trust my judgement and past experience with the details included in the title to spot the obvious Filofax (generic) posts in my first pass through the system. Each post gets looked at before it is included in the list. But it is a skim read rather than a detailed read. Likewise with the videos, when there wasn't so many I used to watch say the first couple of minutes of each one, now I sample them randomly to make sure they haven't veered off in to make up and nails!

I do read quite a few posts for my own enjoyment too, although I don't use my own taste to bias what does and doesn't get included in the lists. I react to requests from you the readers and include what you want to read about.

How do new sites get added to the monitoring system?

Each week I ask for people to let me know about their blogs so that we can add them to the system. I get a few emails requesting to be added. But I also discover new sites via a variety of sources on the Internet and on Facebook etc. So we are always looking for new sites to include. When we add a new site it captures recent posts and then all future ones like other sites.

Your blog must have an RSS feed address though to get included, without one it is very difficult to monitor.

The other thing I love looking out for is new blogs we have discovered and included in Web Finds without them knowing. Then a few days later they too look at their stats and suddenly realise all of you have been 'trampling over their backyard (grass)' and they then track the traffic back to Philofaxy and come and thank us for including them! That always makes me chuckle when we sneak in under their radar and give them a nice surprise!.

What happens to posts that don't get included in either of the Web Finds?

Well some find their way in to one of my Flipboard magazines for example something about Fountain Pens would end up in my Pens and Pencils Focus magazine. And there are quite a few others too. That process is a simple click a link in the bookmark bar at the top of the browser '+Flip It' so it only takes a few seconds.

What happens when you have finished the Web Finds post? 

Well the monitoring system runs 24/7, it never stops looking for new posts. The cut off point is late on Friday night when I need to call it a day and get some sleep! The post is then scheduled for a few hours later. Any post that comes along after I have shut down for the night will be considered for the next post. So after a few days break the whole process starts again. Although in the break I'm doing the other blog web finds and other stuff too.... like life in general!

If you have any questions, please pop them in to the comments.


  1. I know this is not the right forum to be saying this but I have just received my first filofax. A beautiful electric blue A5 organiser. I have stroked it, and stared at it. It came with the 2015 inserts but was still a considerable amount of money. I am glad I did not get the 2016 inserts as I am a little disappointed with the quality of the paper. Is this just me, or do others find the paper a bit flimsy? Having said this, I find the paper in the Kikki K flimsy also.

    1. I know some people don't like the Filofax inserts, but if they were thicker paper, less sheets would fit in the binder. Personally I love them.

  2. I am going to take it to work tonight to stare, fondle and generally drool over it. Ahhhh life is good.

  3. Good post Steve, have always wondered how you had this set up. Now I know.
    Many thanx

  4. I've been a follower of Philofaxy for a while now, and I'm just beginning to start my own blog journey. I've not commented before, but I wanted to just say wow! Thanks for all your hard work to produce this - it's probably my favourite weekly post. I love to sit and read on a Saturday morning with my cup of tea! It's lovely to see "behind the scenes too".

  5. I've been a follower of Philofaxy for a while now, and I'm just beginning to start my own blog journey. I've not commented before, but I wanted to just say wow! Thanks for all your hard work to produce this - it's probably my favourite weekly post. I love to sit and read on a Saturday morning with my cup of tea! It's lovely to see "behind the scenes too".

  6. I've been following Philofaxy for many hears, and the web finds probably since the beginning. As I've said before in several occasions I really love them. Thanks soooo much Steve for your fantastic work on this. I know it's quite time consuming. Thank you for doing this for us!!! :)

  7. I've always thought that Web Finds must take a lot of effort and dedication to produce each and every week (it was twice a week) plus a different weekly trawl for the travellers notebook blog too. Phew!

  8. Great postpost, thanks for the insight to one of my life parts of philofaxy!

  9. Great postpost, thanks for the insight to one of my life parts of philofaxy!

  10. Thank you for this post. I was curious about the software you'd mentioned. Seeing a bit of Gromit was a little 'aha' moment. Web Finds is/are my saturday morning cartoons.

  11. Thank you so much, Steve, for putting the weekly web finds post together. I look forward to this post every week!

  12. Woow, it's really interisting discover how much work there is behind a single post. I would thank you sincerely for this, I love this post because is a great source of inspiration!


  13. The process has always been a mystery to me. I kept wondering what you look for and how you monitor the hundreds of blogs. It's a lot of work and I am so grateful you take the time to do it. These posts have inspired me to share and are always a source of enjoyment. Thank you for taking the time to do it every week.


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